Eight adults–four couples–and eight kids–four girls aged 2-4 and four boys aged 1-2–meet in the parking lot of the Barrington train station for the 10:18am train to downtown Chicago, invading a Metra train car, up and downstairs, with bags and winter coats and purses and strollers (6 to be exact) and cameras and food and children. (Some of us parked unnecessarily far away because we didn’t read the Permit Parking only sign in its entirety which stated that available spaces bacame commuter parking spots after 9am). How many activities could they pack into one trip to the city and what time did they arrive home?
Answer: When we arrived downtown, we had a “quick” bathroom stop then waited a half hour for a trolley that never came, so we hopped on a CTA bus that took us to Navy Pier–again having to pack up all our stuff and squeeze into bench seats.
We enjoyed three hours at Winter Wonderland with its 750,000 twinkling lights on hundreds of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, amusement park rides (Avery tried the Dragon coaster, which almost brought her to tears, the Giant Slide and a trackless train ride) and the Create-a-Cookie Cottage. Although I think most of the kids’ favorite spot was the playground area featuring a long ramp and a couple of slides, which was free.
None of the kids had any real nap, aside from 10- to 15-minute snoozes in a stroller. But we knew it was time to leave when half the kids are either napping or having a meltdown, and the other half was still bouncing off the walls.
When we left, our single file parade of strollers took on the streets of Chicago. We caught the 4 o’clock news at ABC7, so a few of the taller adults and their kids had a moment of fame on tv. Then we finished our walk to Macy’s to see the Nutcracker display in the windows. We had an early dinner at Italian Village, which was kind enough to accommodate our large party in its restaurant (I apologize to those who were having a quiet, romantic dinner before we arrived!).
Amazingly, we then made it back to Ogilvie Station after a brisk walk for the 6pm express train and a quick ride home, which we needed every minute of to solve one big math problem: who owes whom for what and how much? An amusingly complex exchange of money ensued with each of the adults putting in their two cents about how the math should be done.
The train arrived about 6:45pm and after our 20-minute walk to our car in the slush and dark of night, we were able to get home soon after and have the kids in their beds by 7:30pm, a half-hour before their usual bedtime.
In the end, our family was out about $80. But the experience? Priceless.